How Lando Norris lost the Canadian GP; Safety Car timings analyzed

Alex Gassman

by Alex Gassman

Norris Verstappen canada

Lando Norris was leading the Canadian Grand Prix up until lap 25 when the safety car came out. The exact timing of the safety car meant he missed the pits, but the three drivers behind him all had time to take a pit stop.

That put Lando at a big disadvantage and cost him track position after he stopped.

I’ve analysed the exact timings of the safety car, and Lando’s position on track, to show just how close he came to making the pit stop window and winning the race.

Setting the scene

The 2024 Canadian Grand Prix started wet. There was heavy rain shortly before the race began and drivers had to decide whether to start on the extreme wet or intermediate tyres.

All teams apart from HAAS started their cars on the intermediates (inters). Lando was starting in third after qualifying only two hundredths of a second behind Verstappen and Russell after they unbelievably set the exact same time in quali.

The start of the race

Russell passed Verstappen early on in the race and Norris held on to third. But as the laps ticked over his pace, relative to the two drivers ahead, got better and better.

On lap 20 Norris made a move in the DRS zone to pass Verstappen for second place. The next lap he did the exact same thing to Russell on the way in to the final chicane and inherited the race lead.

Lando’s pace allowed him to rapidly build a gap to second place which, in theory, should have helped him out. But that wasn’t the case.

Pit stop window

The track was drying and the intermediate tyres were wearing out fast. All the drivers would soon be planning on coming in to the pits from some fresh rubber.

A safety car allows the overall time lost to other drivers during a pit stop to be reduced considerably, effectively giving them a ‘cheap’ pit stop. From around lap 20 onwards the teams were all on high alert, ready to cash in on a cheap stop for their drivers should a safety car be called.

Sargeant's crash causes a safety car

On lap 25 Logan Sargeant dropped a wheel on to the wetter part of the circuit exiting Turn 4 and spun, hitting the wall in the process.

His car ended up in the middle of the track and he couldn’t get it restarted. As it was stranded in a dangerous position, race control deployed a full safety car so it could be recovered. This was exactly what the teams and strategists were looking out for.

Safety car timings

With data taken from the excellent we can see how the timing of the safety car and Lando’s track position meant he came oh-so close to benefitting from a cheap pit stop, keeping the lead, and perhaps taking the win.

The safety car was deployed with exactly 1 hour 22 minutes and 44 seconds left of the alotted 2-hour race time, so 37 minutes and 16 seconds in to the race. The time stamp at the top left of the image below shows this.

At that point Norris was most of the way down the back straight, just before the braking point for the final Turn 13 / 14 chicane.

The pit entry is at the turn-in point for Turn 13. If you want to stay out on track you turn right at the chicane; if you want the pits you go straight on.

The GPS and timing data shows that Norris reached Turn 13 / the pit entry around 4 to 5 seconds after the Safety Car was deployed. But he didn’t enter the pit lane. He carried on to complete another lap.

At the point when the safety car was called, Norris had a lead of more than 11 seconds over Max Verstappen in second place. That meant the strategists looking after the three cars of Verstappen, Russell and Piastri had around 15 seconds to decide to bring their cars in to pit. 

Plenty of time to make the decision and for the engineers to communicate it to their drivers.

Behind the safety car

As Lando didn’t pit, he was picked up by the safety car just after he exited turn 2. The safety car cannot go at anywhere near the pace of the F1 cars, so that meant he had to trundle round behind it for one whole lap.

The images below show Lando’s sector times, first on a racing-speed lap prior to the safety car’s deployment, then on the lap where he had to follow it around.

Across sectors 1 and 2 alone, Lando’s lap behind the safety car was over 26 seconds slower than normal (sector 3 isn’t shown on the safety car lap as he pitted at the end of it).

Playing catch up

Verstappen, Russell and Piastri all pitted at the end of lap 25. Even though that cost each of them the ~19 seconds it takes to transit the pit lane when stopping, after they left the pits they could drive at almost full speed to try and catch the safety car train.

By the time Norris had followed the safety car all the way around to the pit entry on lap 26, the three drivers behind him were now only 17 seconds back. Not enough to complete a pit stop and get out ahead.

Rejoining in 3rd

As Norris completed his stop and rejoined the circuit, the toll of having to do that extra lap behind the safety car became clear. Verstappen and Russell passed him, and Lando slotted in to third place just ahead of his teammate Piastri.

Could Lando have won?

After the race restarted the cars continued on their intermediate tyres for another 20 laps or so. Norris tried the overcut and it almost worked; he rejoined the track in the lead after swapping to slicks but couldn’t get traction at the pit lane exit and lost out to Max.

For the final 20 laps the circuit had a dry line. Lando’s pace in the dry wasn’t quite as good as it was in the first 20 laps in the wet, but he hung on to 2nd place. At the finish he was just under 4 seconds behind Max.

Had he pitted on lap 25 as soon as the safety car was called, he would have held the lead at that stage. His track position would have given him clean air which would have been kinder to his tyres, so he may well have been able to hold on for the win.

Is the team to blame?

4 or 5 seconds doesn’t sound like much time for the team to react and call Lando in, but they should have been on highest alert as soon as they saw Sargeant’s stricken car. They could have told Lando the situation and warned him to be prepare for a very late call to box.

At the same time their pit crew would have been readying the tyres and could even have stood by the pit box just in case.

As soon as the Safety Car was deployed, 4 or 5 seconds would have been enough time to radio ‘Box Box Box’ and for Lando to react. But the call came too late and Lando missed the pits, and with it an opportunity to take his second victory.

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Alex Gassman

I‘m Alex. I write F1 and motorsport travel guides based on my experience as racing driver and full-time motorsport nerd. I’ve traveled the world watching F1 and other racing series.

I started oversteer48 with the aim of helping other motorsport fans who are planning on watching some racing themselves.

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